Thursday, June 28, 2007

T2 and the Run

I came off the bike and headed toward transition ready for a run. If for no other reason than it would be different than the bike. I took a bit of extra time and grabbed my fuel belt, got bottles off ice from the small cooler, threw my hat on, and headed out of transition.

On the way toward the main run course, I stopped at a restroom, and noticed I still had my cycling gloves on. Rather than head back, I just stuffed them into the pockets of my tri top and headed out.
The run starts with a climb of about 300 feet, and most people were just walking up it. While my pace wasn't much faster, I jogged up the hill to help shake out the legs. At the top of the hill, George Schweitzer came running from the left and started his second loop. That put him about 6 miles ahead of me. We exchange a few congratulatory comments, and continued on our own races.
Immediately, I knew this run would be unlike any I'd ever done. After the big hill, we got to run up some very treacherous terrain including a nice little hill with a lot of gravel. The one good thing was the forest protecting us from the heat. As my legs loosened up from the bike, I fell into a steady rhythm and found my pace.

I carried my fuel belt on the run, which allowed me to use aid stations primarily as air conditioning units. At every station, I grabbed a cup or two of water and dumped them over my head. That helped fight the heat.

As the miles passed, it became apparent I was clocking pretty consistent 9+ miles. The "plus" was tough to gauge, because the mile markers were irregular, and some seemed to be a bit inaccurate. On some sections, I was apparently running 8'30" miles, while others were closer to 10' miles. More likely, the miles were marked wrong.

After the first loop, I knew that every person I passed would be one click up in the standings. Knowing exactly what the course looked like helped with planning, and I knew where the tough spots would be. Soon enough, I passed the 12 mile mark and knew that it was just a few more turns until the descent of the big hill. And that promised to be one of the more challenging parts of the race. Dropping 300 feet in under 1/2 mile was going to be tough on the quads.

As I came into the finishing chute, I saw the clock at 6:01. I was a bit depressed because breaking 6 hours gun time would have been cool. However, the 1 minute was more than covered by my wave time, and I knew I had broke six hours.

Total run time, 1:59:58. Not bad considering my best marathon time is 3:55. And that's without the other events in front of it.

At the end of the day, I felt great. I knew I could have done a second loop of the swim. I could have headed out for a second loop on the bike. I would NOT have wanted to do a second half-marathon, but that's what the next 9 weeks are for. Preparing for that second 13 miles. This was a great confidence booster, and I'm glad Coach Mike had me run the half.

And now, a few pictures.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Thought Process

This morning's swim workout was a brutal set of 600s. The warmup and cooldown called for 200 yards of non-free. The main set was 4x100 descends on 15", 50 yards non-free, and 150 yards pull with the middle fifty being a hard effort. Do this four times with 1' rest intervals between each set.

Here's how my thoughts progressed through the workout.

After the warm up and first set - "That wasn't too bad. I'm feeling the past week, a bit, but doing alright."

After the second set - "I think I want to stop, now."

After the third set - "Perhaps I'll hurt whoever it was that designed this set. Badly."

After the fourth set - "I'm too tired to hurt anyone. Perhaps I'll just lay here on the pool deck and take a nap."

In the hot tub skipping the cool down - "At least I'll have something funny to blog about."

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

T1 and a Bike Ride

I ran into transition looking for the balloon on the bike next to mine. I stripped off the wetsuit, and realized I hadn’t really thought about what to do with it. Luckily, being a copycat doesn’t carry the same penalties as drafting. So I hung it on the bike rack with the rest. After drying my feet, I threw on socks and shoes, strapped on my helmet, and grabbed my gloves and glasses. I jogged down to the bike out with my fastest T1 ever, despite it being the first time with a wetsuit. Again, many thanks go out to George, as his guidance on taping gels to the bike led right to wearing my tri-top under the wetsuit. T1 time, 4:06.

The bike mount area is a bit tricky as it is grass. I took it easy for the 50 feet until the road, then picked up speed and prepared for the hill that was only a couple hundred feet away. It was a short time later and I was out of the saddle and working it to keep forward momentum. I benefited greatly from having climbed this hill several times during training and knowing what to expect.

After getting up the hill, I settled in for what I knew was 55 miles of gently rolling hills. While none of the hills climb to dizzying heights, the constant rollers keep you from getting into a true rhythm. Luckily, the winds hadn’t picked up and it was easy to stay in aero position.

Around mile three, I decided that a longer T1 might have been beneficial when my bladder started to let me know how effective my hydration plan for the past 24 hours had been. It wasn’t too urgent until around mile seven or eight. That’s when I started looking for a convenient grove of trees near the side of the road. And yes, I realize there are alternatives to stopping. Until I’m competitive enough that a minute or two matters, I’ll keep The Pol-R Express free from that solution.

Around mile nine, the race director had the solution to my problem. An aid station (actually the mile 33 aid station that is passed at mile 9) with a porta-let was just what was needed. I may have lost a minute, but I’m sure I gained it all back in improved pace.

After that, it was simply a matter of spinning away. The race plan called for 10 miles in low zone 1. Then, 10 miles of high zone 1 heading toward zone 2. Miles 20-40 would be mid-to-high zone 2. After that, pacing would be dependent upon time. If sub-3 hours were possible, I would push into zone 3. If not, I would stay in zone 2.

Well, from the first miles, my heart rate was WAY high. I’m talking well into zone 4. Only I didn’t feel zone 4. I felt zone 2. I figured it might be the hills, so I gave myself some time to settle down. I eased up a bit, and felt my effort go down. But the heart rate really wanted to stay high. Biking along, I waited for my legs to seize up at any moment. Spending hours in zone 4 isn’t a great recipe for success.

But the legs never seized. I continued on, throwing the heart rate plans out the door. I went on perceived effort. My nutrition was good, and I was staying hydrated. It was only my heart rate that was at odds with everything else. Well, one of these things doesn’t belong…

Another hint from George was to tape my gels to the top tube of the bike. Let me tell you, if you don’t do that, start. That method is genius on many levels. First, you don’t have to use the clubs that your hands become after hours on the bike to retrieve nutrition from a pocket. Second, with the top taped down, the packet opens if you pull it off correctly. It is much easier than trying to open the gel with your hands and/or teeth. For the race, I had five Gu gels (Tri Berry and Orange Burst), two bottles of Gatorade, and one bottle of water. I had one Gu left at the end of the bike.

After 2 hours 56 minutes, I headed back into transition. My average pace was right around 19.5 mph, and I felt great coming off the bike. Given an expected time of 3 hours and 7 minutes at about 18 mph, I was very satisfied with the bike leg. As with the swim, I felt strong enough to do a second loop and complete the full 112 miles. After coming out of the water in 224, I was 168th on the bike.

Check back for T2 and the run in the next day or so.

Monday, June 25, 2007

High Cliff Half Ironman

High Cliff, on the northern shores of Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin, is a beautiful state park with a marina, swim beach, playground, campground, and many other features. And once a year, it plays host to 1100 triathletes for both a sprint and half-IM triathlons. This year, we were blessed with clear skies, calm water, and great conditions.

For me, the festivities started on Saturday when I volunteered at registration. It was there that I first met George and Michelle in person. Iron Wil and Stu arrived later in the day, and everyone invaded my house for dinner. It was a great time, and there was plenty of pasta and fellowship for all. Having George as a guest was a huge benefit. He shared plenty of tips and suggestions, all of which helped ensure I had a successful first half-IM.

On Sunday, I woke up at 3:30 a.m. and started getting ready. My traditional pre-race breakfast of bagel and eggs with 20 ounces of Gatorade got me going. Because I was up a bit early, I departed from the norm and took a warm shower and got dressed. Following George's lead, I had my gels taped to the top tube of The Pol-R Express, so I went with my tri-tank. Due to a casualty with my tri shorts, I had to go with a worn pair of shorts with a Speedo underneath. And order new tri shorts.

We loaded up our gear, made sure we had everything, and headed out the door just after 5 a.m. Once at the park, we got body marked, picked up our chips, and headed out for a short ride to make sure the bikes were good to go. I set up transition and got in a quick run to loosen up the legs. After a tri club picture, I got into my wetsuit and headed to the lake for warm-up. In a lucky move, I opted to head backwards on the course and loop around to see what the finish would look like. I learned it would look like a big ball of fire, as the sun was shining directly in our faces on that leg.

Shortly before the race started, I ran back up to the transition area when Stu mentioned someone had stolen his swim cap. They were mandatory, and I had spares. So, I got to see what the run out of the water was going to feel like. And Stu got to race legal.

Soon enough, the swim started, and I gained valuable knowledge watching the first five waves go out. Too many people were walking for deeper water. But in a lake that is 19 feet at the absolute deepest point, you could walk the whole first leg and never loose contact with the bottom. So, when my wave lined up, I went to the back and outside. When the horn sounded, I simply worked my way out and avoided all the idiots walking the swim. I didn't pass them. But I did get to swim until they decided to give up the hike. As we approached the first turn, I headed back into the main swim lane. After the turn, I started running into a couple of breast strokers. It's amazing how much force can be generated by the kick of a breast stroking swimmer.

After the second turn, things got more interesting. The sun was now in my eyes when breathing, and the bouy was so far away that it was nearly impossible to see. So, I swam using lines of swimmers as a guide. That is fraught with potential for disaster, but I figured everyone else had to be doing the same thing. After the third turn, sighting was impossible because we were looking directly into the sun. A friendly lifeguard kept me from going too far off course, and I managed to make it to the finish without too many issues.

Overall, the swim went very well. I did freestyle the entire distance and sighted much more effectively than I have in the past, thanks to the suggestions of a coach who spoke to our tri club and gave some hints on that. At no time did I become "claustrophobic" due to the murky water, and I maintained a very steady effort. At the end of the swim, if someone had told me I had to complete a second loop, I could have done it. I would have been bored the entire time, and I would have been very tired at the end, but I could have completed the second lap.

After standing up, I started stripping my arms out of the wetsuit as I headed for shore. I "ran" up the steep hill to get into transition. At the entrance to T1 was the timing mat.

My expected time for the swim was 45:00. My actual time was 44:22. That was "good" enough for 224 out of the 264 males in the half-IM and 33 out of 46 in my age group. The rest of the day would be spent running down many of those who came out of the water ahead of me.

Check back tomorrow for T1 and the bike.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

One Big Deposit

On Saturday, a storied group of bloggers descended upon the Fox Valley in Wisconsin to tackle the High Cliff Half Ironman triathlon. There are sure to be much more detailed reports, but here is a breakdown of the major topics.

A pasta dinner was held at the Pol homestead, and the entire tri-blog/raceAthlete contingent attended. This included George Schweitzer (Article George, story to come), Simply Stu, Iron Will, and Rural Girl and her family. We had a great time, and have some funny stories and pictures for later.

On Sunday, each of us completed the half-IM race on our own terms. We raced our own races and faced our own demons. At the end of the day, we overcame and put one in the "Finish" column. A generic recap of the race:

George threw down the gauntlet. The official results need to be posted, but he was only about 20 minutes behind the overall winner, and that's after a flat in the first mile of the bike.

Simply Stu posted a stellar time, despite believing the run took a lot out of him. He came in well under 6 hours and placed in the top 20 in his age group.

Rural Girl showed that she will give Stu a run for his money in Madison. Her overall time was only 6 minutes slower than Stu's. She also placed very well in her division.

Iron Pol set a half-IM PR (since it was his first one), finished in 5:47, and beat his expectations in every discpline. This was good enough for 20th in his division, and something like 120 overall.

Iron Wil finished in about 7:45 and looked as if she had gone through a battlefield between the swim exit and the finish line. After catching some gravel and facing bike issues, she continued to bike and made it to the run. On the difficult trail run, two areas of gravel played havoc with her footing. I'm sure she'll post the pictures we took at the finish line. She overcame huge mechanical, physical, and mental challenges to finish, and she should take them to heart. She proved she is ready to beat the mindgame that is Ironman.

More detailed reports to follow, and I'm sure each of the others will have their reports. This was a truly exciting weekend, and if you have the opportunity to meet and/or race with any of these bloggers, take it. Each is inspirational, gracious, and humorous in their own way.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


One of the first things I learned when taking up endurance events was respect. First, and most obvious in this category was "Respect the distance." One of the biggest mistake any endurance athlete can make is failing to show proper respect for an upcoming race. Whether it's a 5K charity run, a full marathon, or an Ironman triathlon, the distance must be respected. Many an athlete has crashed and burned after shorting the training needed to achieve a goal.

Then, there is "Respect the successes of others." In the same manner, everyone deserves respect for their accomplishments. An "elitist" attitude won't serve anyone well, and it might just turn someone off from the sport. If someone is a confirmed couch potato, we should celebrate with them when the complete a walk around the block. And we should continue to affirm their accomplishments as they occur. Walk around two blocks. Walk a mile. Jog a quarter-mile. Complete a 5K walking. Run a 5K. Swim 200 yards. The definition of "long" varies from person to person. And everyone deserves respect if they are pushing to improve themselves.

This weekend, I will attempt my first half-Ironman. While I haven't yet hit the full court press of nervous energy, I have maintained respect.

I certainly respect the distance. The bike and the run are little concern, except they come after a 1.2 mile swim. And that is something I truly respect. I still have difficult time getting my head around 1.2 miles in open water. If it doesn't hit me before, I KNOW that getting into the water in my wetsuit on Sunday will bring it home. That and being unable to see the final marker bouy.

I will also get to meet several people whom I already respect. And we haven't even met. Each of the bloggers and Team raceAthlete members heading into town has accomplished a great deal to get to the starting line. In addition, there are dozens of new Tri Foxes competing in their first triathlon. For that, they all have my respect.

Finally, I respect my wife for allowing me to take this journey, and for being there every step of the way. I could probably be a marathoner and triathlete without her support, but it would be much more difficult and much less fun.

This weekend, I continue on a journey down a new path. And I will venture further down that path than ever before. Tonight, it is too early to truly have a healthy fear of the race. But I will always have respect for everything surrounding it.

Oh yeah, just for the record, here are my goals/predictions for the race:

Swim - 45 minutes
Bike - 3 hours 7 minutes
Run - 2 hours 15 minutes
Transitions - 8 minutes
Total time - 6 hours 15 minutes

And my "Wow, that exceeded my wildest expectations" goals:

Swim - 40 minutes
Bike - 2 hours 40 minutes
Run - 1 hour 55 minutes
Transitions - 6 minutes
Total time - 5 hours 21 minutes

Saturday, June 16, 2007

While You Were Out

Time has a way of rolling by while we are occupied with our lives. And things of note have a way of just continuing to happen whether or not we are paying attention.

At some point in the very near past my site clock climbed over 10,000. I am grateful to everyone who visited and made that happen. For those who return often, thank you for taking part in this journey. I might be able to do this without you, but it would be so much less enjoyable, and so much more difficult. I appreciate your words of advice, wisdom, motivation, and encouragement. For those just passing through, thanks for visiting and leave a comment so I know you were here.

Just as the site clock continues to count up, the race clock continues to count down. And it seems to be a bit more predictable. It seems to go down by one every single day. If this continues, 10 weeks from tonight I will be in Louisville, Kentucky trying to sleep despite pre-race nerves.

Another constant in any Ironman's life is training. Today was no different, and the training did much to improve my confidence. Instead of being a 5000 yard swim, or a 6-hour bike, a simple 30-minute swim gave me a boost. It was 30 minutes in the lake, with a wetsuit, essentially alone. There were a few other tri-club members around, but for the most part, I had the swim area to myself. While 30 minutes is far from sufficient to complete an Ironman swim (or my upcoming 70.3 race, for that matter), it was enough to make a small, but very important, deposit into my IM Louisville account. Thirty minutes with my face in the water, with nothing to see but algae and nothing to focus on but form. Thirty minutes of allowing the wetsuit to provide added comfort in the water. Thirty minutes to prepare for much longer swims that are on the horizon.

Time will continue to pass. Other notable things will happen. Each is simply a stop along the way to something else. 10,000 hits is a milestone on the journey to 100,000. Thirty minutes in the water is a part of the process to reach two hours (or whatever it takes to complete 2.4 miles). High Cliff is one race on the road to Louisville. And this is only one journey in one season. We all have our own lives to lead. Others are pursuing different races at different distances. Each is just as important as the next. And every journey completed is simply the start of the next.

And while we're focused on our lives, time just keeps rolling by. And things of note have a way of just continuing to happen whether or not we are paying attention.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Why, Oh Why?

Does it always have to be the REAR tire?

And as far as that goes, why does it ALWAYS seem I flat out at convenient times like near the end of a 90 minute ride just before work?

So far, for my bike, I've put four new tubes on the rear tire. The front is the tube that was on the bike when I bought it (1100 miles ago). Of those four flats, three have occurred in the morning prior to work.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Seeing Green - Bellin 10K

First, allow me to give B-Boy all his due. He took part in his second Dick Lytie Kid's Run on Friday night. As part of the Bellin Run 10K, the kid's run has become so popular, they moved it to its own time and hold it in conjunction with the spaghetti supper. There were so many kids and parents, it was a major mess. Still, my son had fun, and we have some pictures to prove it. He ran the 0.3 mile race in about 5 minutes, a great time considering it was so overcrowded he had to walk half of it.
B-Boy running for the finish!

A happy boy with an awesome prize (football and backpack)!

And then it was time for the grown ups. And what a perfect day for a race. The temperature was about 60f at race start, and there was virtually no wind. The sun was out without beating down on the racers.

With an estimated run time of 41:30, I received the blue bib for the second preferred start corral. While a sub-42 run warrants a green bib for the first preferred start corral, that is something that must be earned. My previous best of 44:54 fell short of that mark. I positioned myself near the front of the corral and planned on 5 minutes of easier running to get out of the mess at the start of the race. After that, the plan was 5 minutes at lactate threshhold followed by 3 minutes of active recovery. That would be repeated until the end of the race. Done properly, I would be on a final LT run on the final 5 minutes before the 42 minute cutoff. If I fell apart, I would be able to ease up.

I hit the first mile and was a bit concerned. Seven minutes was well over my target pace of 6:50 maximum. Trusting my plan, I fell into a rhythm of 5 minutes hard, 3 minutes active recovery. I missed the second marker, and was pleased when I hit mile three at 19:51. The preliminary results show I crossed the 5K mark at 20:36.

The next two miles were increasingly more challenging as the LT intervals became tougher to maintain and the recovery intervals seemed to do little by way of "recovery."

I hit mile five in 33:24 and knew it was going to be close. Mile six seemed elusive, and I felt it would never arrive, though in all reality, it was a very good mile at 6:46 pace. I crossed that marker at 40:10 and started trying to do math in my head. I had a minute and 45 seconds to cover 0.2 miles. I was sprinting at this point, and never finished the calculations. I stopped looking at my heart rate, and just put out everything my legs had left. Crossing the finish line at 42:01 would be a heart breaker. Note the little kid in the next picture. He dogged me the entire race. I didn't know whether to shake his hand for a great race, or trip him.

Sprinting the final few hundred yards, looking at the clock counting up, doing math in my head was fun. I knew I had a bit of extra time for the difference between clock and chip time, but no idea how much. My goal, get across the finish line before CLOCK time showed 42 minutes. That's the cause of the blur in the pictures. I was moving so fast Mrs. Pol couldn't get me in focus (or, she was in a bad position and barely got the pictures taken).

In the end, the plan paid was a huge success. My final time was 41:22. Eight seconds off my target. Fast enough to qualify for a green bib and the first corral, next year. A PR by more than 3:30 over a 10K course. And a huge boost to the confidence in race plans. I owe a great deal of thanks to Coach Mike, as it was one of his training runs that was used for the race plan. I have had several workouts comprised of the 5' LT/3' AR sets, and doing those showed me that a sub-42 10K was possible. Now, it's on to the High Cliff 70.3 race!

Finally, a "before" shot, just to show off the race jersey I was wearing. Note the cool logo and disregard the bulging belly.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Weathermen and Yardage

Yesterday, the plan was to ride to and from work. Wednesday night, a quick check of the weather indicated the "from" portion of that plan might pose a few problems. You know, minor things like hail. And tornadoes.

While little things like wind and rain won't deter me from a ride, solid rain and 80 mile an hour winds are another story. And the two co-workers in on the ride were more concerned than myself. After a final check of the forecast, we call off the ride.

On the way to work, it was beautiful. High 50s, little wind, no rain. That was expected as the forecast called for the conditions to deteriorate throughout the day. Around lunch, people started talking about how windy it was getting and that the storms were coming.

I checked the satellite maps and disagreed. Still, all the weather services were calling for severe weather going into the afternoon and evening.

On the ride home, I noted how nice it was. A bit windy, but actually quite nice. Even then, I held out hope for the forecasters. After all, were I on my bike, the ride would take much longer than in the car. By the time I got home, no rain. No hail. No tornadoes. But the forecasters were showing all the tracking maps and continued to issue severe weather alerts for our area.

Showtime for the kids. No bad weather. Snacktime. All clear. Bedtime. No flashes of lightning. No funnel clouds. Nothing. Clear skies. And a neighbor mowing his lawn. An odd thing to do were we in the middle of a tornado.

Darn weathermen. I knew I should have risked the ride.

On a lighter note, today was a swim workout. And a major milestone in swimming. While last year was far from a "massive" swim year, I completed about 169,200 yards. Today, I completed 169,600 yards for 2007. It seems Coach Mike's plan for increasing yardage has worked. In two weeks, we'll see how well beneficial the swim focus has been when I compete in my first race of the year, the High Cliff half-IM.

Now, get out there and train. The weatherman is probably wrong.

Sunday, June 03, 2007


While considering a post detailing my more recent bike workout, a perfect title came to mind. And was immediately censored by my internal content control board. After all, I have kids.

The concept for the title was directly related to the ride itself. I was on my bike for nearly 5 1/2 hours. That's a LONG bike ride, no matter how you look at it.

There were lots of rolling hills, and that always makes for a HARD ride.

AND it was pouring down rain for about 9o minutes of the bike. Needless to say, I got very WET.

Since I won't be using the title, you'll just have to wonder. There's just no way I could possibly post it. Just trust me that it was very suggestive.

The training schedule called for a four hour ride. And when my training partner suggested meeting him at a nearby airport where he would be attending an airshow, I was game. Sure, we knew the airport was around 45 miles from my house. Sure, we knew it was to be an easy ride. But hey, what's an extra hour or so of training among friends.

It was already raining as I sat in the garage putting on my shoes. Hey, sometimes it rains on race day (a phrase whose lesson I never seem to learn). I headed out, and was promptly soaked. The rain lasted for the first 45 minutes of the ride.

Riding past the street where my training partner lives, about 17 miles into the ride, I hit roads on which I had never ridden, before. Apparently, a bit more attention to elevation maps would have been prudent. Most of the next 25 miles was one long set of rolling hills. Finding a groove was difficult, and a graph of my speed would closely resemble a sine wave. But at least the rain had stopped.

After just under 2 1/2 hours, I hit the airfield where I was to meet my training partner. It seems the rain that hampered the first hour of my ride had also hampered the planes at the show, and the performances were running 30-45 minutes behind schedule. Rather than wait too long, I headed back on my own.

Sadly, the hills hadn't changed one bit in the interim.

About 20 miles out from home, the rain started, again. Though it only lasted about 20 minutes this time around, it was more than enough to thoroughly soak me a second time.

All together, I spent 4:57 in the saddle, covering just over 88 miles. If I had really thought it through, I would have just added the extra 12 miles and completed the century. Then again, I was wet. Who can think with that kind of rain?